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Shorne electricity key worker remembers 40 years in power

Electricity key workers are marking 40 years’ service in jobs that help keep the country going.

From Press releases - 14 September 2020 12:00 AM

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Nearly 80 fresh-faced recruits offered jobs in the electricity industry in 1980 went on to enjoy long and successful careers working on essential electricity networks which power homes, schools, hospitals and the economy across the South East, London and East of England.

One of those celebrating their staying power at UK Power Networks is head of quality of supply Colin Barden, 56, from Shorne, Kent, who received an MBE for services to the electricity industry in 2000 for his work on Christmas Day in Wales and the Midlands, where customers lost power in a major storm.

Colin said: “Fundamentally we are still connecting people to electricity supplies via a cable or an overhead line, pretty much the same way we did when I joined the company. However, the way we manage the business and help our customers has changed for the better, which has made my 40 years fly by and I still have that same desire to be here.

“It’s a fantastic job and my advice to anyone joining the industry is, don’t be afraid of change. Be part of it and make an impact on it, so you can look back on your career and say, I was part of that, I made that happen. My life in this business has been one of continuous change, which I’ve always viewed positively as bringing about a better workplace.

“The times when I have absolutely loved my job is when I have travelled around the region, meeting everyone and interacting with people. It has been absolutely brilliant, I loved that.”

Normally, newcomers to UK Power Networks’ 40+ Club, which has 500 employees with 40 years’ continuous service, mark the special milestone at an annual celebration that recognises the important role of long-serving employees. This year, celebrating safely at home, they include skilled experts in electricity engineering, linespeople, cable jointers, substation fitters, HR, projects and connections.

Basil Scarsella, chief executive of UK Power Networks, said: “I recognise and celebrate the dedication and expertise of our employees, many of who have lived and worked in the communities we serve, for a long time. Their work keeping the power on is usually carried out behind the scenes, but it enables everyone’s everyday lives to run smoothly.

“Even for those who have been with us for many decades, 2020 has been an unprecedented year and I am hugely proud of all of our staff’s response to the many challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, with everybody working hard to keep the power flowing. Clearly we cannot gather together for our usual 40+ Club dinner this year, but everybody appreciates the reasons why and it remains a milestone well worth marking.”

Colin joined the company on 1 September, 1980 as an apprentice fitter, maintaining electricity substations, then switched his training to became an overhead electricity linesperson in Medway. Destined for management, further studies led to promotion as a technical supervisor and he embarked on an engineering role, overseeing overhead power line works in Gravesend, before completing his first stint as head of quality supply in asset management. 

In 2004 he became a construction manager, working on upgrading power supplies to London Underground’s northern line. Three years later he was promoted to head of network operations in the South East, responsible for managing the teams of engineers and craftspeople that keep power flowing to millions of homes and businesses across the whole region.

Britain’s biggest electricity distributor, UK Power Networks, is listed in the Sunday Times Best Big Companies to Work For. The company owns and maintains the electricity network which delivers power to 8.3 million homes and businesses across London, the South East and East of England.

In addition to career development for existing staff UK Power Networks continues to run apprenticeships, with new starters due to join in 2021.

1980 factfile: 

•UK inflation reached 17.99%, unemployment hit a 44-year high of 1.9 million and Britain was entering a deep recession

•Council tenants gained the right to buy their homes from their council at a discount, giving many families their first step on the housing ladder

•John Lennon was shot dead in New York and Pink Floyd’s album The Wall hit number one

•Smallpox was eradicated following a global immunisation programme led by the World Health Organisation

•23.5 million viewers tuned in to watch James Bond in Live and Let Die on ITV

•Permed hair, shoulder pads and bold colours were the fashion

•Post it notes were first introduced